Mark Sneed, «A Note on Qoh 8,12b-13», Vol. 84 (2003) 412-416
This note argues that the popular, scholarly opinion that Qoh 8,12b-13 is the citation by the author of a traditional saying that he then counters in v. 14 or relativizes is incorrect. Rather, this unit represents the author’s own sentiment and signifies that he does not absolutely reject the deed/consequence connection. This unit counsels against the common misconception by the wicked that delayed consequence means no consequence. Thus, vv. 12b-13 do not conflict with what precedes or follows and do not conflict with the author’s typical questioning of the validity of the deed/consequence connection.
Qoh 8,12b-13 has been a perennial source of controversy among Qohelet experts1. This is mainly due to the fact that the section seems to contradict its immediate context and the book’s generally skeptical tenor as a whole. Qohelet, throughout the book, consistently questions the deed/consequence connection (Tun-Ergehen-Zusammenhang) (e.g., 7,15) that moral behavior is intricately attached to fortune. But here Qohelet seems to make such a connection: God-fearing is linked with prosperity and wickedness with short life. Here is the unit (in italics for emphasis) within its larger context.
11: Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the human heart is fully set to do evil.
12: Though sinners do evil a hundred times and prolong their lives, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they stand in fear before him.
13: But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will they prolong their days like a shadow, because they do not stand in fear before God.
14: There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous. I said that this is also a vanity.
15: So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun2.
It was once popular to view Qoh 8,12b-13 as a gloss (added by the hand of someone other than Qohelet) meant to counter the skeptical context (8,11-12a. 14)3. A more current position holds that the unit is the citation, by Qohelet, of a traditional saying that assumes the deed/consequence connection, which he then rejects or relativizes in v. 144. The verses are said to contradict their